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How ‘Clarice’ Used Its Early ’90s Setting to Comment on Current Race and Gender Issues (Video)

”The thing that was exciting about telling a story in 1993, while being in 2021, was the prism that we get to look at our world from,“ showrunner Elizabeth Klaviter says

“Clarice” may take place in 1993, but its issues surrounding race and gender in the workplace feel right out of 2021. According to the people in front of and behind the camera, that was a huge part of the reason for doing the show.

“For me, the thing that was exciting about telling a story in 1993, while being in 2021, was the prism that we get to look at our world from. It feels like a really safe way to investigate issues that are topical today: What it means to be a woman in the workplace. What it means to have a friendship from people who are culturally diverse from one another,” Elizabeth Klaviter, showrunner for “Clarice,” told TheWrap. “It’s a very rich and fertile ground for us in terms of storytelling.”

Klaviter was joined by “Clarice” co-creator Jenny Lumet and fellow executive producer Heather Kadin (also president of Secret Hideout), and the show’s stars, Rebecca Breeds and Devyn Tyler. The conversation was part of TheWrap’s Emmy screening series, which you can watch in the video above.

“One of the most important things about 1993 was there was no HR and so much of the language that we have now just simply didn’t exist. We wanted to load Clarice up with as many obstacles as possible. We really wanted the FBI, which at that time was 90% male, to feel like an old boys club,” added Lumet.

Tyler, who plays Ardelia Mapp, agreed with Lumet: “There was no vocabulary around HR and how to talk about these things back in the ’90s, but gratefully we have more of a launching pad, and so now we can talk about them a bit more. It’s been lovely just to actually live those conversations on screen. I think it’s important that people get to witness that.”

Kadin argued that the fact the issues that were so prevalent in 1993 are still prevalent today, makes the show feel like it’s not a period piece. “We didn’t want it to feel like an intense period show,” she said. “You don’t watch it and feel, ‘Oh, that’s a dated issue.’ If anything, you could be watching it and you could be exploring the workplace today or you could be exploring the workplace in 1993.”

Rebecca Breeds, who had the task of following up Jodie Foster’s performance as Clarice Starling, championed the friendship between Clarice and Ardelia.

“That’s one of my favorite things. These women are faced with horrific, horrific things in their day jobs. Not only that, they have to take on the burden of racism and sexism in the workplace, plus all their trauma from their lives. Within the safety of their friendship, one of the ways they can deal with that is they can joke,” she said.

Check out more in the video at the top of this post. And check back with TheWrap daily for more from our Emmy Contenders series.